Barroso versus Paxman

Yet another showdown. The Commission President sounds like Roman Prodi just after the Irish rejection of the Nice Treaty. Nice platitudes about how he ‘respects’ the decision of the people – but the intention seems clear now. The Treaty will not be binned. The plan is to get it passed by at least 20 countries and then try and shame the rest into passing it – either through follow-up referenda combined with European propaganda in the style of the Irish ‘Forum on Europe‘ – and after a campaign of scare-mongering and intimidation – Ireland is the model folks and Barroso hints at it several times without mentioning Ireland specifically. Let’s wait and see what comes out of the meeting later this month, it will be curious to see what they come up with.

I am inclined to repeat, in frustration, the words of Paxman:

Don’t you get it Mr. Baroso? I mean, put to a popular vote, two major countries have said they do not like what the European political elite have cooked up. Don’t you understand that?

You can watch the show by following the link above, I have transcribed the interview with Barroso here. Bold [no pun intended] is Paxman, blockquotes are Barroso.

Is the European Constitution now dead?

I don’t think so. I think we have a problem. A serious problem. We should not underestimate the problem. But the fact is that some countries ratified it, two countries, two very important countries did not ratify it. But I think the leaders that will meet in Brussels next 16th and 17th of this month – they should clarify the situation. I am asking them to clarify the situation. That to have a common approach, a consensus approach, to show the European Union is going and that’s its not the end of the European Union, that we can go ahead and we can work and deliver what European citizens want…

Yes but the citizens of two very major European countries have clearly said they do not wish this treaty to be implemented. You still think it can be implemented?

Look. It was signed by 25 governments. And 25 governments, when they signed, they also had foreseen the possibility of some countries would not ratifying it, um, but they said that they should go ahead with the process then take a decision. I respect very much the French or the Dutch but they cannot decide on behalf of the British or the Portugese or the Danish. I mean the other countries also should have an oppurtunity to say what they think. All member states should have the oppurtunity to express their opinion on that Constitutional Treaty.

So you’re saying that the process of ratification should go ahead in other countries, and that Tony Blair for example should call a referendum in Britain?

No. What Tony Blair should do in Britain, that’s up to the British government but what I think is that the British, the United Kingdom as a State, should have the oppurtunity to say what is the position of the United Kingdom about this process. Until now we had some countries, 9 countries in fact, that said we support the Treaty we have 2 that said we don’t support the Treaty. But it will be important for all of us in Europe to know what is the opinion of all European countries, all are relevant. Of course United Kingdom is very relevant and very important country in our Europe.

But what is the point in any other country in Europe in expressing a view on this Treaty since it cannot be implemented because the Dutch and the French have rejected it?

Well, in the past we have seen that in the process of ratifications there could be other possibilities in the future. I am not anticipating, I am not proposing nothing specifically. I think we need some time to think. I think tha is the wise thing to do , not to take a hasty decision. Afterall it was signed by 25 governments and they accepted, those governments, they accepted a procedure and that procedure should be respected.

Absolutely. And Declaration 30 of this Treaty here says that “if, two years after the signature of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, four fifths of the Member States [that is 20 countries] have ratified it and one or more Member States are having difficulties with it, then it goes to the European Council.” Are you saying that it could still be implemented?

I am saying that so far we cannot take a final decision because we have not yet listened to the opinion of the member states…very important member states…

I’m sorry but how…I am obviously being stupid here. How can, how can a Treaty affecting all the members of the European Union be implemented if two of those countries have decisively rejected it?

Yes. I mean I understand your concerns, but that was not the first time we had that problem in Europe. We had in previous situations countries that did not ratify and afterwards they considered to ratify. I am not suggesting that will happen today, I am not suggesting that this is exactly what’s going to happen. What I think is that this deserves
a serious consideration from Heads of State. I want to remember to you that this was signed by 25 governments, it was signed also by Britain, and when they signed they said, all of them, that they should go ahead with the process and at the end if the number of ratifications is as you have said, that Declaration, we have not enough numbers so the matter should be referred to the European Council. So I think we should speak by what was agreed. Anyway there willl be a moment for deciding this very near, let’s hope, 1 or 2 more weeks, let’s hope that the heads of government that will meet here in Brussels they can clarify the situation.

Don’t you get it Mr. Baroso? I mean put to a popular vote, two major countries have said they do not like what the European political elite have cooked up. Don’t you understand that?

I understand that in France and Netherlands most people refused the Constitutional Treaty. I perfectly understand, I respect, I am a democrat. I respect the outcome of the French and Dutch referendums. Having said that, I would also like to know the opinion of the Portugese or the Danish, or the British, or altogether. That have not had the oppurtunity to pronoune themselves either through a parliament or through a referendum. I think they have the right, all the countries are equal in terms of dignity and all the countries have the right to express themselves and we should not prevent them to express their opinion. So that’s my point and I think it’s a very very clear one. And you cannot object to that really. [laughing]

What is the point in expressing their opinion on something that cannot be implemented?

I mean we cannot say that now.

It could be implemented?

We already had situations where we thought we could not have the implementation and afterwards we got a solution. What I am asking is, and I appeal to you to do, is to be wise, not to be very hasty to show some leadership and some sense of responsibility, to decide collectively. They will very soon meet and they have the oppurtunity to collectively. they collectively decided to sign the Treaty, that’s the responsibility of the Member States, they collectively decided to sign it, now they should collectively decide where to go. That is my position I think it is a very reasonable and a wise one.

If that involves ignoring the will of the people as expressed in referendums, one, two, three, who knows how many. If it involves ignoring the will of the people then governments should be ready to go ahead and do that should they?

No, they should of course listen to those who express that opinion, but they should also note the opinion of others who have not yet had the oppurtunity to express themselves and there are some countries that want to express themselves. I just today had talks with some Prime Ministers and they told me ‘I want to know what is the opinion of my country about the Constitutional Treaty’ and they have the right to express…do you want to put those countries without the right to express themselves? If they want to do it, that is the right of those countries to say, by ratification process in the parliament or by direct popular consultation to say that is the way forward as the French or Dutch have they tried.

Mr. Barroso thank you.